UK Oil & Gas said today its oil exploration programme at Broadford Bridge in West Sussex was producing positive results. But the company was accused of keeping local people in the dark when it did not take part in a public meeting, attended by more than 120 people last night.
In a statement to investors, UKOG said it had successfully recovered a 330ft rock core from one of the Kimmeridge Limestone target zones in the well (KL4).
It also reported that light oil was continuing to seep from shales and limestones in this section of the well. This, it said, suggested that the oil discovery made in 2014 at Horse Hill was part of a bigger continuous reservoir underlying about 30km of the Weald basin.
Stephen Sanderson, UKOG’s Executive Chairman, said:
“The coring programme continues to deliver positive results and important new insights into this continuous oil accumulation, the first of its kind discovered in the UK.”
He said rock cores would be taken from two other target formations (KL3) and KL2) at Broadford Bridge. He expected flow testing would begin in the second half of July.
Last week, UKLG made the first announcement that mobile light oil had been observed in Kimmeridge Limestone. It also said wet gas readings had “increased significantly” at the top of the KL4. Mr Sanderson said:
“I am privileged and excited to have seen, smelt and touched the oil in the KL4 samples today.
“This is a significant and positive result at such an early stage in the well.”
“We would still like questions answered”
Broadford Bridge Action Group, a local environmental alliance, responded to today’s company statement:
“They [UKOG] frequently put out statements talking up findings at their sites in order to attract investment.
“We have no independent assessment of what they have found and so are unable to comment on the context, quality or significance of this find. Either way, we would still like many questions answered.”
The group, which organised last night’s meeting in West Chiltington, about two miles from the well site, accused UKOG of “keeping the local community in the dark”. A spokesperson said:
“Many attending didn’t know anything about what was happening at the site until they heard about the public meeting.
“Of most concern was the expansion of the site, as UKOG say they want to drill more wells between Billingshurst and Horse Hill, thereby industrialising the countryside.”
Other people were concerned about UKOG’s financial stability and the effect of drilling on farmland and on water quality and supplies, the spokesperson said.
Speakers included Graham Warren, a former Environment Agency hydrogeologist, Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust, and environmentalist, Nicola Peel. Among the audience were parish and country councillors.
“Local residents desperate to know what’s happening”
The Broadford Bridge Action Group spokesperson said:
“Local residents were fully engaged in the debate and desperate to know more about what is happening and how it will affect them.
“We were pleased to be able to answer most questions but disappointed that UKOG failed to take up our offer to attend and have a place on the panel. They told us they were worried that they’d be shouted down but, despite a packed room, the debate was level-headed and balanced.
“It’s clear from the experts who spoke and contributions in the room that there are many vital questions that remain unanswered about the risks of water, land and air pollution, the abilities of the Environment Agency to provide enough resource to ensure safety, the lack of an emergency plan in case of accident and the apparent lack of an insurance bond by UKOG to mitigate against anything going wrong on the site.”
UKOG has organised three visits for local people to Broadford Bridge in the past two weeks. But Broadford Bridge Action Group said:
“These have mainly been attended by Parish Councillors from Billingshurst, West Chiltington and Pulborough, as there was no public announcement made of these visits.”
Today’s statement from UKOG was welcomed by the company’s former chairman, the Australian mining engineer, David Lenigas, who has interests in the oil site at Brockham, near Dorking.
He tweeted: “Great to see UKOG’s Broadford Bridge well update this morning. This is looking really good for UKOG and great for Brockham and HH [Horse Hill].”
But Balcombe campaigner, Kathryn McWhirter, said now was not the time to build an oilfield. Writing in The Argus, she asked:
“Are we sleepwalking into an oilfield? The oil industry hopes we are. So do the Conservatives.
“If they get their way, there will be wells across the Weald, with West Sussex the prime target.
“Are we prepared to see the countryside we love industrialised for the sake of a small, short-term reduction in our balance of payment deficit, and profits for the few?”